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DevSecOps tools: A beginner's guide

DevSecOps, a fusion of development, security, and operations, marks a paradigm shift in software development, seamlessly integrating security throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC).

This approach signifies a departure from treating security as a mere stage in development processes. Beyond the core principles and best practices of DevSecOps, specific tools serve as crucial enablers for implementing and fortifying security practices.

As organizations embrace DevSecOps strategies, a surge in the variety and quantity of tools supporting these initiatives has naturally followed suit. This blog post delves into a few different categories of DevSecOps tools and explores their distinct use cases, highlighting their distinct use cases and shedding light on their roles in reshaping modern software development practices.

Understanding the role of DevSecOps tools

DevSecOps epitomizes a dynamic software development model that fosters collaboration across the entire SDLC.

Tools in this space play a pivotal role in harmonizing security with the continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, automating processes, and eliminating silos between DevOps and security teams.

DevSecOps tools serve three core objectives:

  • Minimize risk, maximize velocity: Continuous security testing expedites the detection and rectification of vulnerabilities, ensuring a faster development pace.

  • Automate support for security teams: Automation helps streamline security processes, enabling teams to secure projects without manual reviews and approvals at each release.

  • Shift Left: This approach empowers automated security tasks early in the SDLC, preventing issues from escalating.

DevSecOps tools act as both guardians of security and catalysts for an agile, secure development environment, ensuring speed and security coexist harmoniously.

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a tried-and-true option in the DevSecOps toolbox. It involves analyzing an application's source code, bytecode, or binary code to identify security vulnerabilities without executing the program.

SAST tools act as the first line of defense, offering benefits such as:

  • Early detection to identify vulnerabilities in the early stages of development.

  • Code improvement to enhance overall code quality and maintainability.

  • Comprehensive analysis to scan an entire codebase for potential security flaws.

SAST tools enable proactive remediation of vulnerabilities, fostering a more secure development environment.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

While comparable to SAST in enhancing application security, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) takes a different approach, evaluating the security of a running application. It simulates real-world attack scenarios, identifying vulnerabilities that may only manifest during runtime.

Key aspects of DAST include:

  • Runtime analysis to assess an application in a live environment.

  • Real-world simulation which mimics actual attack scenarios to uncover vulnerabilities.

  • Post-deployment security which ensures an application remains secure in production.

While DAST complements SAST, it is particularly crucial for assessing the security posture of deployed applications.

Software composition analysis (SCA)

Software composition analysis (SCA) focuses on third-party and open source software components and libraries within an application. It addresses the growing concern of open source vulnerabilities and aims to secure software supply chains.

SCA prioritizes the following processes:

  • Dependency monitoring to identify and track open source components.

  • License compliance to ensure adherence to licensing requirements.

  • Rapid vulnerability detection for swift identification of vulnerabilities in third-party and open source components.

SCA is vital for preventing security breaches arising from vulnerabilities in external software dependencies. Just as with SAST and DAST being different yet complementary approaches, SCA and SAST together can supply you with a more comprehensive analysis of security.

Issue tracking system

Effective management of security issues is fundamental in DevSecOps.

An issue tracking system essentially serves as a central code repository for security-related tasks that favors the following:

  • Automation: Automate the tracking and assignment of security issues.

  • Prioritization management: Assign priority levels based on severity and impact.

  • Change management: Track changes made to address security issues.

  • Automated reporting: Generate reports for stakeholders and compliance purposes.

A robust issue tracking system ensures timely resolution and continuous improvement in security posture.

Automated testing tools

Automation is a cornerstone in any DevSecOps toolchain. Automated testing tools streamline the testing process, ensuring the rapid and reliable identification of security vulnerabilities.

Key aspects include:

  • Unit tests that focus on individual components to validate their correctness.

  • Integration tests to verify the interaction between integrated components.

  • System tests to assess the entire application's functionality.

Automated testing expedites the feedback loop, allowing developers to address security issues promptly.

Shifting Left with DevSecOps tools

Shift Left, a foundational principle of DevOps and DevSecOps, advocates for early testing and checking of code quality.

Shifting Left places developers at the forefront of quality, security, licensing, and operations, not to burden them but to empower them. It entails a departure from traditional sequential SDLC phases, offering a more agile and efficient approach.

DevSecOps tools drive Shift Left endeavors, necessitating a reorganization of workflows with key focus on the following principles:

  • Automation: Paramount for replacing time-consuming manual tests prone to errors and breaking down silos between Dev and Ops, fostering collaboration.

  • Scalability: Processes must efficiently scale for teams of any size to prevent reverting to traditional workflows.

  • Communication: Clear expectations from security and legal stakeholders are crucial for useful early quality checks, requiring quick, visible, and easily understandable feedback.

  • Contextualization: Recognizing that not all code requires the same scrutiny, contextual testing and quality checks are vital for effective Shift Left.

In an organization Shifting Left, early quality checks catch vulnerabilities during development, avoiding rework and ensuring a lighter workload throughout the SDLC.

DevSecOps tools and leveraging OSS components

Given that up to 90% of any application consists of OSS components, the success of Shifting Left relies on tools that:

  • Transform security and legal expectations into actionable policies.

  • Assist developers in selecting OSS components maintained by exceptional teams.

  • Identify popular OSS components within the community.

  • Check for security and licensing issues during component selection.

  • Provide quick feedback within developers' existing tools.

  • Scale for teams of any size.

  • Contextualize for specific project needs.

  • Clearly guide developers on remediating violations.

Embracing Shifting Left with DevSecOps tools ensures a proactive and secure approach, aligning with the dynamic landscape of modern software development. Developers, equipped with these tools, navigate the intricacies of OSS components confidently, fostering efficiency and robust security measures.

Tool up with DevSecOps to build your security

DevSecOps is a holistic approach that integrates security seamlessly into the SDLC. By adopting DevSecOps tools, organizations can build a robust security posture, ensuring the delivery of high-quality software that meets stringent security standards.

To recap, these tools include:

  • SAST and DAST for code analysis;

  • SCA for third-party and open source software component scrutiny;

  • Issue tracking systems for effective management; and

  • Automated testing tools for efficient and continuous testing.

As the development landscape evolves, staying ahead of potential threats requires a proactive and integrated approach, making DevSecOps and its associated tools indispensable in the modern software development paradigm.

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Written by Aaron Linskens

Aaron is a technical writer on Sonatype's Marketing team. He works at a crossroads of technical writing, developer advocacy, software development, and open source. He aims to get developers and non-technical collaborators to work well together via experimentation, feedback, and iteration so they can build the right software.